by Richard Haney, Executive Director
I was on the track and field team in high school, competing in the high jump and one-mile relay. On a relay team, everyone has to pass or receive the baton. Being able to make that exchange without error is almost as important as speed on the track. A dropped baton can be disastrous.
I’ve been thinking about “passing it on” ever since. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s song, “Teach Your Children,” resonated with me during my young adult years. My desire to pass on knowledge, wisdom and family traditions to the next generation grew even more when I became a parent.
In the Old Testament, the Shema—that memorable passage in Deuteronomy 6:4–9—urges parents to pass on the Bible’s commandments to their children: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children…”
The Old Testament urges the faithful to pass the faith down to the next generation. The Hebrews, an embattled ethnic minority, fiercely guarded their distinct history and heritage by teaching it to their children from their earliest years.
Passing it on takes new meaning in the New Testament. Paul tells Timothy, “What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Do you see the turn? The Old Testament signals the need to pass faith down from one generation to another. The New Testament urges Christ’s disciples to reach beyond their biological families and pass the faith on to friends, neighbors and strangers.
Mission is the work of passing on the Good News of God’s Kingdom to others—telling, showing, loving and serving the world as Christ did. Pass along the story, the songs of faith, the commands, the wisdom of the ages and the revelation of God. Pass it down to your children and to all whom God places in your path.
Adoniram and Ann Judson are counted among America’s first international missionaries. They sailed from Salem, Massachusetts, to India in 1812. Eventually, they made their way to Burma (present-day Myanmar), translated the Bible into Burmese and served through intense persecution and struggle.
How did the Judsons receive their passion for mission? It was passed on to them. Their pastor in Salem, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Worcester, was interested in news from around the world. He read widely, studied maps and shared his curiosity about global affairs. The Judsons caught his a vision to care about faraway neighbors and followed God’s call to ministry among the Burmese.
How do we as 21st century followers of Jesus live as faithful disciples? We need to receive what God offers through His Word and the witness of His people and then extend it to others—passion for Christ, devotion to the scriptures, compassion for the suffering, joy in the Lord, zeal to make Him accessible to all.
What do you have to pass on, and with whom are you going to share it? May God show us how we can faithfully pass down and pass on the gifts of faith, hope and love we’ve received through Christ.